Prosecutors filed a single misdemeanor charge of peeking Thursday against Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo, rejecting a more serious felony allegation stemming from his July arrest outside a woman's home that could have led to his removal from office.
The 32-year-old 5th District supervisor is expected to be arraigned on the charge today in Santa Rosa in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Gary Medvigy. The document alleges that Carrillo wandered onto the woman's property and peeked in her door and window while she was home.
The misdemeanor falls within the disorderly conduct section of the state's penal code, a section that also includes offenses such as soliciting prostitution and public drunkenness. A conviction calls for a possible jail sentence but it is likely that someone without a criminal record would be ordered to participate in a rehabilitative program.
Carrillo had faced the possibility of a more serious felony burglary charge. Arresting officers accused him of trying to break into the apartment and detectives said it appeared he intended to commit some type of sexual assault, pointing to a torn bedroom screen and other evidence.
State law requires officeholders to step down if convicted of a felony.
Rosanne Darling, the woman's attorney, said her client was relieved after numerous prosecution delays that Carrillo was being charged with a crime. But she expressed disappointment that the Attorney General's Office didn't file a more serious allegation.
"The charge seems inadequate for what she had to go through that night," Darling said.
Carrillo's attorney, Chris Andrian, would not comment Thursday.
A plea of guilty or no contest, entered today or at a later date, would avoid a potentially embarrassing trial.
Carrillo declined to talk about the case Thursday, citing Andrian's advice.
"I can't comment on any aspect of the charges," he said. He also was tight-lipped about what it meant for his political career. Some of his sharpest critics are vowing to push a recall effort should he not resign, but Carrillo has said he has no plans to step down.
"My focus today is on my personal recovery and getting back to work," he said. "On the other matters, I'm just not prepared to comment on that."
The charging document was signed by Cody Hunt, a special prosecutor for the state attorney general. Hunt did not return calls Thursday. A spokesman for the attorney general did not immediately comment.
The charge comes as Carrillo has gradually resumed a broader, more public role representing his west county district, which has been roiled by the fatal shooting last week of 13-year-old Andy Lopez by a sheriff's deputy.
Carrillo, a son of Mexican immigrants, and until his arrest a rising star in the state Democratic Party, has re-emerged as a prominent face of the Latino community in the shooting's aftermath.
The widely noticed move has drawn praise from some and scorn from others.
Now, with the decision by prosecutors, the immediate political implications of Carrillo's legal case appear to be less serious, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.
"It's not a political pass," McCuan said of the misdemeanor charge. But "it is minimal to the point of being politically impotent."
"The real brass-tacks question," he added, "is can his opponents turn this into political hay?"